Kids and Heart Risk examines the link between childhood obesity and heart risks during American Heart Month.

Adults aren’t the only ones who should be thinking heart smart this February, as heart disease is a concern for an increasing number of children, too. Research shows that overweight kids are more likely to develop heart disease as adults. And many overweight children already have conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which puts them at risk for heart disease now.


The good news is that most kids can address these risks with changes in diet and exercise. Throughout February, which is American Heart Month, highlights the heart risks facing overweight kids and provides advice for how to manage them.


At, real-life kids, like Maya, share their stories. Maya was only 5 years old when her family learned she had dangerously high triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood; having too much increases the risk for heart disease. By making changes to her diet and encouraging her to be active, Maya’s family helped her lower her triglycerides and improve her heart health. 


“Fatness hurts your heart. If your heart is hurt, you won’t live that long,” says Maya in a video on the site. “I don’t want to be unhealthy and I’d rather have this diet than get those high triglycerides again.”


The alarming numbers


According to the American Heart Association, an estimated one out of every three kids in the United States is overweight or obese. It’s not that hard to understand how they got there. Kids can be picky eaters. Like most kids her age, Maya preferred pizza and chicken nuggets to fruits and vegetables, and her parents didn’t realize the health risks of this kind of diet.


But the consequences of an unhealthy diet can be significant. A recent study published in the journal Obesity showed that overweight kids are more likely to have high cholesterol, which is associated with higher heart-disease risk in adulthood. 


“Type 2 diabetes, high triglycerides, high cholesterol–these used to be considered old people problems and we are seeing them in little kids,” says David Thoele, MD, a pediatric cardiologist and one of the experts featured on